Evaluating impact is an often expected and required outcome of social innovation practice, and yet is particularly challenging when applied to outcomes designed to address societal problems.
DESIAP has been focused on understanding the challenges through conversations with practitioners and funders, and have now synthesised our insights into a new report. The report is a summary of the three days (19-21st December 2017), beginning with an intensive 2-day workshop with Design and Social Innovation practitioners that led to insights and themes that were shared with the wider public on the 21st of December 2017.
Our research suggests that alternative models of impact is needed to enable communities to be central in deciding how, why and what is important, so evaluative thinking is built into the work or project from the very beginning.
Alternative and culturally grounded evaluative practices are present if we choose to recognise them. For funders and commissioners, acknowledging evaluation as a form of learning requires a change in mindset from one of monitoring to one of support. We identify existing evaluative practices in D&SI projects, which often goes unnoticed because they differ from dominant or common models of evaluation. Highlighting and surfacing these differences is an important step forward in diversifying existing approaches. Key to undertaking effective evaluation in D&SI is to build trust among commissioners, communities and partners. This can open up discussions about how and what kind of impact could be achieved together. Adopting a culturally grounded evaluative practice enables project teams to be true to the needs of the communities they serve.
For funders and commissioners, acknowledging evaluation as a form of learning requires a change in mindset from one of monitoring to one of support. It requires trust in the organisations that they fund and to co-design evaluative practices that acknowledges the transformative potential. It involves expanding evaluation methods and approaches to include a broader spectrum of informal and qualitative evaluation approaches to complement traditional outcome-driven approaches. It is also important to build an eco-system of practitioners who have strong evaluative practices to support people who want to apply a more evaluative practice to their work.